Kathleen McClung

Kathleen McClung is the author of four poetry collections: Temporary KinThe Typists Play MonopolyAlmost the Rowboat, and A Juror Must Fold in on Herself, winner of the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize.  Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies including Southwest Review, Naugatuck River Review, Mezzo Cammin, Ekphrasis, Atlanta Review, Spillway, California Quarterly, Forgotten Women, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and elsewhere. Winner of the Rita Dove, Morton Marr, Shirley McClure, and Maria W. Faust national poetry prizes, she is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Kathleen teaches at Skyline College, The Writing Salon, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in San Francisco. For ten years she directed Women on Writing: WOW! Voices Now on the Skyline campus, celebrating creativity in writers of all ages.  In 2018-2019 she was a writer-in-residence at Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Currently she serves as guest editor for The MacGuffin and associate director of the Soul-Making Keats literary competition. 

Poem on Belonging

ACROSS AND DOWN

He smoked a pipe and read the Mercury

but saved the crossword page for her. At dawn
she wrestled with small, numbered squares. Her poetry—

her home, three sons, two daughters, a family
she made with George. She could depend upon
him, smoking pipes and reading.  Mercury

winked out beside the moon each day as she
put water on to boil and wept for her son John.
She wrestled with small, numbered squares half-heartedly

in a half-dark bungalow until, hungry,
four children woke.  One flipped the light switch on.
George smoked a pipe and read.  Both Mercury

and scarlet fever—gods of thieves and trickery—
had flown through every house, and paused, then gone.
She wrestled with small, numbered squares.  No poetry

they read in church, no hymns they sang off-key
could bring full light. They kept the curtains drawn.
He smoked a pipe and read the Mercury,
she wrestled with small, empty squares—her poetry.

			     for John Calvin McClung, 1946-1949

Copyright © 2022 by Kathleen McClung. Used with permission of the author.